There are a few things in life that leave little room for discussion, but when it comes to cycling, things are a little clearer in some aspects - here's a list of 10 cycling must-haves to ensure that you're riding safely and comfortably!
And yes, I know some of you will fight me on some of these (particularly, good ol' number 6), but no. Sorry, you're wrong. Number 6 is not up for debate.
(That said, if you do want to argue...or preferably, politely discuss, what is and isn't up for discussion in terms of the top cycling accessories, or anything else, drop me a comment at the bottom of the post.)
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10. A good pump
A decent bike pump will save you A LOT of headache. While there are a lot of great portable options (from the super-convenient CO2 cartridge to the mini-pump), this is a case of old is gold.
A classic bicycle pump is great to have in your garage (or closet, in my case) - it's quick, it's relatively inexpensive, and it''ll make sure your tires always have enough air in them.
9. A proper bike lock
I'd like to tell you that we live in the kind of world where your bike is always safe, but unfortunately, that just isn't the truth. Bikes remain a favourite target for thieves around the world - if you're in Toronto (like me), not locking up your bike is basically telling people that you don't want it anymore!
And while it's true that if someone really wants your bike, they'll find a way to take it, this is an accessory you really don't want to cheap out out on, especially if you have a more expensive bike or one that you're emotionally very attached to.
Abus and Kryptonite are two popular (and reliable) brands for bike locks. I personally use a combination of a U-lock and cable lock to make sure both my bike frame and wheels are safe when parking for any prolonged period of time!
If you're planning to leave a more valuable bike outside overnight, I'd recommend looking into something even sturdier (such as a heavy duty chain lock in addition to the U-lock. You want to make it as difficult for any would-be thieves as possible!).
8. A luggage solution
I'll be honest with you. I hate carrying things when I ride. If it doesn't fit into my pockets, I don't want it. However, my day-job insists I bring my laptop with me to work (something about productivity, or some other such nonsense!) and so, I carry a cycling backpack.
A backpack isn't the only solution though. Panniers are another great option. And if you're not sure whether you'd prefer a backpack or a pannier on your bike, check out Cycling Backpacks vs Panniers.
7. Lights, lights, lights.
Depending on where you're riding, the law may require you to have (and use) bicycle lights between the hours of dusk and dawn. Here in Toronto, you should be turning on your bike lights one hour before it gets dark, and keep them on until it's bright again.
There are two sides to bike lights:
- To see.
- To be seen.
In most city settings (where there is enough light available for you to navigate), the second point is arguably the most important. It makes it easier for car drivers to not hit you (important), and makes pedestrians also more aware of your approach (also fairly important).
Ideally, you'll have a decent pair of lights on the front and back of your bike.
Okay, here we go. You need to wear a helmet. I know you think it's uncool. I know you think it ruins your perfectly coiffed hair. But you should be wearing a helmet.
Most of North America is not built around a cycling culture, so not wearing a helmet is just very risky: the drivers are not accustomed to cyclists, and neither are the pedestrians. And should something go wrong, the pavement doesn't really care about preserving the integrity of your lovely skull.
Also. You're out and about riding. Kids can see you. So, just be a good example, k?
That aside, if you're in a country or a city that's got a strong cycling culture and infrastructure (think: Denmark), the risks are a lot lower. However, still worth wearing a helmet, because accidents happen and a helmet is a small, simple precaution that can save you a lot of problems.
Find one that fits well and goes with your personal style!
5. A bell
Bells make noise without being too noisy. Noise helps people (and in the case of bells, the focus is primarily pesky pedestrians that need a little help understanding that they're picnic-ing in the middle of a cycling lane) know you're there.
In Toronto, you're technically required to have a bell on your bike if you're out riding on public paths or streets.
It's not worth buying anything uber-expensive or loud here. Bells generally aren't going to be heard by cars, and something too loud will shock the people around you more than giving them a polite audible nudge.
4. Cycling bottoms
Whether you're commuting or riding for sport, you'll find that spending any long length of time on a bicycle can have an impact on your bum (i.e. it hurts). It's worth getting a pair of cycling shorts or cycling-specific trousers to wear in order to make your rides just that little bit more comfortable.
A pair of cycling-specific bottoms can also help prevent that additional wear n' tear that takes place when riding with regular jeans or pants.
Suggested reading: What to do about saddle sores
3. Cycling jacket
Assuming you're commuting or riding for fun, a cycling jacket serves a few purposes:
- Increases visibility (through the use of reflective strips and colors)
- Gives you more pockets
- Keeps you dry (assuming that you're not in heavy rains...in which case, you'll want a waterproof jacket and know how to ride in the rain.)
- Makes you look cool pro-cyclist.
2. A bottle cage
Bottle cages get slept on for some reason. Most bikes have points built-in to accommodate the addition of a bottle cage. And that's fantastic, because water is great. Dehydration can really creep up on you, so make sure to stay properly hydrated when you ride!
If you have a bike (like my beloved Fuji Feather) that's too cool for bottle cage holes, have no fear, there's always a solution that uses straps.
1. A good attitude
A smile goes a long way. We all have off-days, but doing your best to maintain a positive attitude goes miles towards improving your cycling experience. Keep it classy, don't be the type of cyclist that ruins other people's days (I'm looking at you bike messengers and delivery riders!) to get somewhere a little faster.
And, that's it! Was your favorite cycling accessory in the list? Leave a comment below, share the knowledge and let's make cycling more accessible to everyone!
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